restaurant has been struggling, but thanks to a letter to The Food Network, the reality show Restaurant: Impossible came to the rescue.
Lead by Chef Robert Irvine, the show’s crew plan, the interior and the menu in just 48 hours with a budget of $10,000. Curious spectators have watched the workshop tent, trucks and equipment planted in the restaurant parking lot for the past two days.
Benicians were invited to make reservations for the grand re-opening on Wednesday night. Those who took this advice were seated shortly after the restaurant re-opened. Those who didn’t plan ahead stood in line.
When patrons began to arrive at 6:30 p.m., the sound of power tools could be heard and tools and gear still littered the entrance. It was obvious that the restaurant would not open at 7 p.m. as planned. More than two hundred people waited patiently outside for two and a half hours.
Among them were Charlie Clement and Flory Nye-Clement who have been patrons of Pappas for years. “I am hoping for a successful improvement to the restaurant’s appearance and atmosphere,” expressed Nye-Clement, who’s niece works for the show. The two were sworn to secrecy about the show coming to Benicia.
“I think it’s great for them,” said longtime Benician Pat Moriera. “They are delightful folks. I am hoping this really gives them a boost up.”
Included in the crowd were city officials- Economic Development Manager , , City Attorney Heather McLaughlin, and .
“I’d like to see an updated restaurant and a change in the menu,” said Hughes. “I think there are too many things on the menu.”
“I hope they keep the Patty Melt,” added Kelly Hughes.
“I hope it invigorates the business, attracts new patrons and shows what we can do in Benicia,” said Mayor Patterson. “It’s a very creative approach.”
Sue Fisher Jones, Public Affairs manager of , supplied Valero employees for the show’s before scene. “They have great breakfast’s”, said Fisher Jones. “I am hoping for some beautification inside, maybe advice on marketing the restaurant and fine-tuning of the menu. When I first moved here, I thought it was a Greek restaurant but the menu had Italian, Greek and American, so there was some confusion.” AJ Jones also of Valero, said, “My guys used to come here on Fridays for fish and chips.”
The self-named Benicia Bag Ladies have dinner in Pappas bar every other week. The group favors moussaka and the Greek platter and has hopes for more Greek dishes.
By 8 p.m., the crew cleared the scene so owner Mike Anastasios and his sons Nicholas and Andreas could be interviewed. With much anticipation, the three were ushered inside and given a tour.
It wasn’t until after 9 p.m. when patrons were let inside, in order of reservation. At 10:30 p.m., several dozen people were still waiting for tables. Once inside, the new decor, the simplified Greek menu and a party atmosphere delighted patrons. Additional kitchen help was recruited for the opening.
Fans of the TV show, who hoped to hear Chef Robert yelling at the crew in the kitchen, were not disappointed.
Reviews of the food were all positive. Due to some confusion with the orders, Giuliani enjoyed multiple lamb entrees. “My dinners were outstanding.”
“I think Mario had the best,” said McLaughlin who shamelessly walked around with a fork sampling everyone else’s meal. “The osso bucco was fabulous.”
“I will come back,” said Schwartzman. “It was all good. They did a great job on the makeover.”
“I think the community support is awesome,” said bartender Kathy Falk, who has worked at Pappas for two years.
The final guests were seated just before midnight and said it was definately worth the wait.
Due to restrictions by the show’s producers, we are not able to share details about the makeover so Benicians will just have to check it out for themselves. Chef Robert focused on the dinner menu but Pappas will resume serving breakfast and lunch on Saturday.
The Pappas episode of Restaurant: Impossible is due to air on the Food Network in April.